October 13, 1923 – Anglo-Saxon Clubs of Virginia Convene & Adopt a Constitution to Fight for White Supremacy

On this day in history, representatives from a number of posts of “the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America” met in Richmond, Virginia. Their purpose was “to preserve and maintain Anglo-Saxon ideals in America by ‘the strengthening of Anglo-Saxon instincts, traditions and principles,”“the intelligent selection and exclusion of immigrants,” and most importantly, the implementation of “fundamental and final solutions of our racial problems in general, most especially of the Negro problem.” [Richard B. Sherman, “‘The Last Stand’: The Fight for Racial Integrity in Virginia in the 1920s,” The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 54, No. 1 (Feb., 1988), pp. 69-92]

John Powell, the moving spirit behind the Anglo-Saxon Clubs

The group produced effective lobbyists, Sherman reports, who were able to push through a bill in Virginia ensuring “racial integrity.” Although the final measure was watered down a bit from what the Anglo-Saxon Club adherents proposed, the support from those in the eugenics movement as well as the press helped raise enough alarm about “racial intermingling” that the Racial Integrity Act was passed in 1924. As Sherman reports:

Virginia’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act, with its ‘no trace’ definition of a white person [before, needless to point out, the widespread use of DNA testing would call that particular definition into question], and its accompanying ban on intermarriage, was possibly the most strict in the nation.”

The act not only banned anyone with black blood from marrying a white person, but also forbad “Orientals or other nonwhites” to marry Caucasians.

The act also required the registration of all Virginia residents with the State Bureau of Vital Statistics, noting their status as either white or “colored.” All doctors, midwives, and other health or county officials were required to fill out birth registration forms that clearly identified children they delivered as “colored” or “white.” The racial criteria strictly adhered to the “one-drop rule.”

Virginia’s governor was so pleased with the passage of the bill that he sent a copy to the other governors of each state requesting that they try to get similar acts passed. (Sherman, p. 79)

The law was the most famous ban on miscegenation in the United States, and was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1967, in Loving v. Virginia (388 U.S. 1)

You can read the entire act here.

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September 16, 1963 – Charles Morgan, Jr. Delivers Speech on the Meaning of the Birmingham, Alabama Church Bombing

Charles Morgan Jr., born in 1930, graduated from the University of Alabama, where he also received a law degree in 1955. A white man, he became a civil rights lawyer who won numerous landmark cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He opened the American Civil Liberties Union’s Atlanta office in 1964 and became legislative director of the ACLU’s national office in Washington in 1972, defending some of the most controversial cases of the 1960s and 1970s. His most important case was the”one-man, one-vote” ruling he won in 1964 in Reynolds v. Sims (377 U.S. 533), which forced the Alabama legislature to create districts that were equal in population, giving black voters a better chance to elect candidates.

Charles “Chuck” Morgan, Jr.

Richard Cohen of the Southern Poverty Law Center said [a bit optimistically, as it turned out] that the Reynolds case “was the death knell for voting discrimination in the South.”

Morgan also forced Alabama to integrate its prisons; successfully challenged the Southern practice of barring women and blacks from jury duty; and represented Julian Bond when the Georgia General Assembly tried to prevent the newly elected legislator from taking his seat after he spoke out against the Vietnam War. He also appealed the draft evasion conviction of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who opposed the Vietnam War on religious grounds. [Morgan handled the appeal in district and appellate courts; he did not argue the case before the Supreme Court, where Mr. Ali was represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Chauncey Eskridge and others argued the case there, and the Court ruled in Mr. Ali’s favor in 1971. Nevertheless, ever ignorant of history, in June, 2018, President Trump said he was considering pardoning Ali.]

Muhammad Ali has a “no comment” as he is confronted by newsmen as he leaves the Federal Building in Houston during the noon recess of court, June 19, 1967. (Ed Kolenovsky, Associated Press)

But perhaps the most seminal moment in Morgan’s career came on this day in history. On September 16, 1963, the day after four young black girls were killed in the firebombing of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Mr. Morgan took the podium at the Birmingham’s Young Men’s Business Club to deliver his most famous speech, saying:

“We are a mass of intolerance and bigotry, and stand indicted before our young. We are cursed by the failure of each of us to accept responsibility, by our defense of an already dead institution. . . . Every person in this community who has in any way contributed during the past several years to the popularity of hatred is at least as guilty as the demented fool who threw the bomb. . . .

Who did it? Who threw that bomb? The answer should be, ‘We all did it.'”

Charles Morgan, Jr. on the left and the victims of the church bombing on the right

He later recalled:

“I was mad as hell. I made a speech I’d written that morning. When I got through, everyone applauded, and someone moved to admit a Negro to membership in the club. Like everything else in Birmingham, it died for want of a second.”

The Atlantic reported:

Following the speech, the threats began almost immediately. The very next morning, at 5 a.m., Morgan received a call. ‘Is the mortician there yet?’ a voice asked. ‘I don’t know any morticians,’ Morgan responded. ‘Well, you will,’ the voice answered, ‘when the bodies are all over your front yard.’ Later, Morgan recounted, a client of his drove an hour to tell him to flee Birmingham. ‘They’ll shoot you down like a dog,’ the client told Morgan. Little wonder that Morgan quickly closed down his law practice and moved himself and his family to safety.”

Reflecting on what happened later, Morgan stated he did not feel that moderates in the South could be expected to be a powerful force for change. As he told The Harvard Crimson:

The fiction of the Northern liberal that the Southern moderate is going to rise up and speak out is silly. . . . A Northern liberal lawyer in the cool 4:30 comfort of his Madison Avenue bar says, ‘Why don’t you stay there and fight?’ Then that same lawyer will send his Southern business to a firm all of whose partners are racists, and, rationalize it by saying: ‘We want a firm that will win.’”

Morgan added:

When the federal government starts sending in registrars and enforcing the laws already on the books, when the North accepts the social responsibility that goes with the ownership of all the corporate wealth in the South, when Harvard and all the Harvards take the stewardship of their Southern investments as a social concern that is equal to their concern for the education of young men–that’s when someone in the South who’s a normal human being wedded to his hometown will be able to take the stances that are necessary to achieve change.”

In 1977, Morgan left the ACLU to go into private practice. As the New York Times related the story, Morgan experienced a growing disaffection with the national headquarters, which came to a boil in 1976:

‘At a Washington party, a New York liberal told him that he opposed Jimmy Carter of Georgia for president because, he said, ‘I could never vote for anybody with a Southern accent.’ Mr. Morgan replied, ‘That’s bigotry, and that makes you a bigot.’ When the encounter was reported in The New York Times, Mr. Morgan was reprimanded by Aryeh Neier, the executive director of the A.C.L.U., and Mr. Morgan resigned.”

The lawyer who led an early movement to impeach President Richard M. Nixon then astounded his friends by representing former attorney general John N. Mitchell in an unsuccessful attempt to shorten his prison term. He also represented the Tobacco Institute in a fight against a municipal ordinance banning smoking in public places and corporate clients accused of discrimination.

Morgan died at age 78 from complications of advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

September 2, 1885 – Rock Springs, Wyoming Massacre of Chinese Immigrants

On this day in history, 28 Chinese were killed, 15 wounded and all 79 of the shacks and houses in Rock Springs’ Chinatown were looted and burned by white mobs who resented the Chinese for accepting lower pay for railroad jobs, and for being Chinese instead of white.

Chinese laborers came to America to work on the transcontinental railroads in the West. Some 12,000 Chinese helped build the Central Pacific Railroad meet the Union Pacific Railroad. After its completion in 1869, the Chinese stayed. They worked in the coal mines and in other jobs, mostly in low-wage labor positions.

Racism against the Chinese was widespread as the Chinese were blamed for depressed wage levels. [The laboring classes never seem to get the message that blame could be placed on corporate executives hungry for profits rather than fellow workers.] In addition, then as now, there was a large element of white supremacy adherents. “The Supreme Order of Caucasians,” for example, was a group organized in Sacramento, California, in April 1876 whose primary focus was to run the Chinese out of the United States. It quickly grew to 64 chapters called “camps” statewide with about 5,000 members.

Pacific Chivalry, Harper’s Weekly, 7 August, 1869 by Thomas Nast

Pacific Chivalry, Harper’s Weekly, 7 August, 1869 by Thomas Nast

The U.S. Naturalization Act of 1870 (16 Stat. 254) extended citizenship rights to African Americans but barred Chinese from naturalization on the grounds that they and other Asians could not be assimilated into American society. Unable to become citizens, Chinese immigrants were prohibited from voting and serving on juries, and dozens of states passed alien land laws that prohibited non-citizens from purchasing real estate, thus preventing them from establishing permanent homes and businesses. The idea of an “unassimilable” race became a common argument in the exclusionary movement against Chinese Americans.

A caricature of a Chinese worker wearing a queue an 1899 editorial cartoon titled "The Yellow Terror In All His Glory"

A caricature of a Chinese worker wearing a queue an 1899 editorial cartoon titled “The Yellow Terror In All His Glory”

The Page Act of 1875 (Sect. 141, 18 Stat. 477) was the first restrictive federal immigration law and prohibited the entry of immigrants considered “undesirable.” The law classified as “undesirable” any individual from Asia who was coming to America to be a forced laborer, any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country. The law was named after its sponsor, Representative Horace F. Page, a Republican who introduced it to “end the danger of cheap Chinese labor and immoral Chinese women.”

In 1882 Congress passed “The Chinese Exclusion Act” (22 Stat. 58), signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur. It suspended all immigration of Chinese laborers “until the expiration of ten years next after the passage of this act. . .” The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States. [It was renewed in 1892 with the Geary Act (27 Stat. 25) and made permanent in 1902. It was repealed by the Magnuson Act (57 Stat. 600) on December 17, 1943.]

Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States

Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States

Until 1875, the mines in Rock Springs, Wyoming had been worked by whites; in that year, a strike occurred, and the strikers were replaced with Chinese strikebreakers less than two weeks after the strike began. After yet another strike in 1884, tensions escalated after mine managers there were told to hire only Chinese workers.

Tom Rea, writing on the Wyoming History website observed:

In the summer of 1885, there were scattered threats against and beatings of Chinese men in Cheyenne, Laramie and Rawlins. Threatening posters turned up in the railroad towns warning the Chinese to leave Wyoming Territory or else. Company officials ignored these signs as well as direct warnings from the union.”

[Possibly it was reassuring to them that the whites were scapegoating the Chinese rather than turning against the company.]

wy_rocksprings

In August 1885, notices were posted from Evanston to Rock Springs, demanding the expulsion of Chinese immigrants, and on the evening of September 1, 1885, one day before the violence, white miners in Rock Springs held a meeting regarding the Chinese immigrants.

On the morning of Sept. 2, 1885, a fight broke out between white and Chinese miners in one of the mines in Rock Springs. The white miners went home and brought back guns, hatchets, knives and clubs.

In Chinatown, it was a Chinese holiday. Many of the miners stayed home from work and were unaware of what was developing.

Shortly after noon, between 100 and 150 armed whites – mostly men but also some women, convened near the mine. About two in the afternoon, the mob divided in such a way as to surround Chinatown.

The mob moved into Chinatown from three directions, pulling some Chinese men from their homes and shooting others as they came into the street. They burned the shacks and houses in Chinatown, burning alive some Chinese and driving out others.

1885 riot and massacre of Chinese-American coal miners, by white miners. From Harper's Weekly: Harper's Weekly, Vol. 29

1885 riot and massacre of Chinese-American coal miners, by white miners. From Harper’s Weekly: Harper’s Weekly, Vol. 29

When the rioting ended, as indicated above, at least 28 Chinese miners were dead and 15 were injured. Rioters burned 75 Chinese homes resulting in approximately US $150,000 in property damage ($3.95 million in present-day money).

In Cheyenne, the Territorial Governor Francis E. Warren sent telegrams to the Army and to President Grover Cleveland in Washington asking for federal troops to restore order. These troops escorted the surviving Chinese miners, most of whom had fled to Evanston, Wyoming, back to Rock Springs a week after the riot. The Chinese would have preferred to leave Wyoming, but the coal company (owned by the Union Pacific Railroad) refused to pay them the two months of back wages they were owed, and so they had no money to leave. The company expected the miners to bury their dead, and get back to work. Until new houses could be built, they would be living in the boxcars.

Francis E. Warren, Republican senator and territorial governor from Wyoming

The company store refused to sell food or anything else to the Chinese who were not working and threatened to evict them from their temporary boxcar homes. About 60 refused to work and left Rock Springs any way they could. The rest more or less surrendered. Any miner, the company declared, white or Chinese, not back at work by Monday morning, September 21, would be fired and never hired again anywhere on the Union Pacific lines. And so the miners returned to work.

Sixteen white miners were arrested for the massacre and released on bail. A grand jury was called to consider what, exactly, should be the charge. Though the killing had been done in daylight, in front of other people, no one could be found who would swear to having seen any crimes. No charges were filed.

Federal troops built Camp Pilot Butte between downtown Rock Springs and Chinatown to prevent further violence and stayed for 13 more years.

Federal soldiers on South Front Street in Rock Springs, 1885.

Federal soldiers on South Front Street in Rock Springs, 1885.

Meanwhile, racism against the Chinese gained even more ground. The influential religious pastor and writer G. G. Rupert spread the theory that the “Last Days” would involve a power struggle between the west and the “yellow races,” publishing the widely read book “The Yellow Peril, or the Orient vs. the Occident as viewed by modern statesmen and ancient prophets (1911).” The phrase “yellow peril” was popularized in the U.S. by newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst.

You can read the history of what happened as recorded by the Chinese victims, here.

August 10, 1993 – Ruth Bader Ginsburg Joins the Supreme Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nee Joan Ruth Bader, was born on March 15, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York. Because there were several other “Joans” in her class at school, her mother Celia suggested the teacher call her Ruth.

Celia had always wanted to further her own education, but was unable to, so she wanted to make sure Ruth wasn’t held back by circumstances as she had been. Celia took an active role in encouraging Ruth, taking her to the library often and directing her to books about female heroes. She also took her on trips, where Ruth could see signs barring entrance to Jews (as she was), blacks, Mexicans, etc. She never forgot the pain and unfairness of the prejudice she saw.

Ruth attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she met Martin D. Ginsburg, whom she married following graduation.

RBG and her husband

She obtained a degree in government, and was the highest-ranking female student in her graduating class. In the fall of 1956, she enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she was one of only nine women in a class of about five hundred men. Ginsburg tells the story that at a dinner for the brand-new Harvard law women, the Dean asked the female law students, including Ginsburg, “How do you justify taking a spot from a qualified man?” She recalled:

I was so embarrassed. The dean had each of the women escorted by a distinguished professor. Mine looked more like God than any man I ever met. He was also a chain smoker, so we were sharing an ashtray on my lap. When I stood to speak, the cigarette butts fell on the living-room floor. But I gave him the answer he expected: ‘My husband is a second-year law student, and it’s important for a woman to understand her husband’s work’.”

But that was not, she reported, what she actually thought.

When her husband took a job in New York City, Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School and became the first woman to be on two major law reviews: the Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review. In 1959, she earned her Bachelor of Laws at Columbia and tied for first in her class.

Nonetheless, after graduation, no one would hire her. Men did not want to work with a woman [not to mention, one probably smarter than any of them]; she was a mother (law firms thought that would distract her); and she was Jewish, at a time when many firms didn’t hire Jews. Finally a judge hired her, and then she became a law professor.

Justice Ginsburg as a young law professor at Rutgers

She was a professor at Rutgers School of Law and Columbia Law School, teaching civil procedure as one of the few women in her field. Ginsburg spent a considerable part of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, winning multiple victories arguing before the Supreme Court. She advocated as a volunteer lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and was a member of its board of directors and one of its general counsels in the 1970s.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg, age 60 at the time, was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the Supreme Court in 1993. She was confirmed in a 96-3 vote and joined the court on this day in history, August 10, 1993.

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for a group portrait in 1994 (from left, front): Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Associate Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy; (from left, back) Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter, Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer.

Justice Ginsburg was the court’s second female justice, following Sandra Day O’Connor, and the first Jewish woman ever to be appointed to the Court.

After O’Connor’s retirement, and prior to Sonia Sotomayor joining the court, Ginsburg was the only female justice on the Supreme Court. During that time, Ginsburg became more forceful with her dissents. She began to wear two different collars over her robes: one when she agreed with the Court’s decision, and a different one when she dissented. She is generally viewed as belonging to the liberal wing of the court. Ginsburg has authored notable majority opinions, including United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg 2016 portrait

A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review revealed that female Supreme Court Justices are interrupted more by male Justices and Advocates.

The authors wrote:

We examined the transcripts of 15 years of Supreme Court oral arguments, finding that women do not have an equal opportunity to be heard on the highest court in the land. In fact, as more women join the court, the reaction of the male justices has been to increase their interruptions of the female justices. Many male justices are now interrupting female justices at double-digit rates per term, but the reverse is almost never true. In the last 12 years, during which women made up, on average, 24% of the bench, 32% of interruptions were of the female justices, but only 4% were by the female justices.”

Furthermore, the more women on the Court, the worse the situation:

In 1990, with one woman on the bench (former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), 35.7% of interruptions were directed at her; in 2002, 45.3% were directed at the two female justices (O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg); in 2015, 65.9% of all interruptions on the court were directed at the three female justices on the bench (Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan).”

Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan

Interesting, the female Justices have coped by gradually setting aside polite phrasing. In a sentence that would be funny if it weren’t tragic, the authors added:

We do not see a similar trend with the men, because male justices rarely use these polite speech patterns, even when they first enter the court. It is the women who adapt their speech patterns to match those of the men.”

They aver:

These behavior patterns are important, as oral arguments shape case outcomes. When a female justice is interrupted, her concern is often left unaddressed, which limits her ability to influence the outcome of the case. Women changing their questioning techniques should not be the only response to this problem. The chief justice should play a larger role as referee, enforcing the rule that prohibits advocates from interrupting the justices, and preventing an interrupting justice from continuing.”

She is known as “Notorious RBG”

August 8, 2014 – Uganda’s First Gay Pride Parade

In 2013 in Uganda, a law punishing homosexual acts with life in prison was annulled after strong international pressure.

One year later, on this day in history, Ugandans held their first out-in-the-open gay pride parade, albeit with some participants covering their faces, as homosexuality remains illegal. (Pride has been celebrated since 2012, but not in public places.)

Ugandan-men-hold-a-rainbo-014

The overturned law called for proven homosexuals to be jailed for life. But homosexuality is still punishable by a jail sentence. However, it is no longer illegal to promote homosexuality and Ugandans are no longer obliged to denounce gays to the authorities.

As USA Today reports:

Uganda is one of 36 African countries — and more than 70 around the world — where homosexuality is illegal. It’s a notoriously intolerant place for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, who face arrest, discrimination, eviction from their homes and violence from police and individuals.”

Homophobia remains rampant in Uganda, where American-style evangelical Christianity is increasingly popular. Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, avers:

Before evangelicals came here, Ugandans did not equate homosexuality with such words as ‘promotion’, ‘exhibition’ and ‘recruiting’. Now it’s said we’re trying to ‘recruit’ an army of homosexuals or supposedly asking children to become homosexual ‘to take over the heterosexuals’; ‘exhibitions’ constitute any organised events, such as Pride, workshops and meetings, and “promotion” any form of advocacy.”

Increasingly, gay men and women face frequent harassment and threats of violence. Gay rights activists continue their struggle.

In 2016 and 2017, the Ugandan government decided to cancel the scheduled week of gay pride celebrations in the country. In issuing a directive shutting down the gala in 2017, the State Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, proclaimed:

It’s true I ordered the police to stop and shut down all the gay pride events. No gay gathering and promotion can be allowed in Uganda. We can’t tolerate it at all. . . . We know they are trying to recruit and promote homosexuality secretly. But it’s worse to attempt to stand and exhibit it in public arena. This is totally unacceptable. Never in Uganda.”

Who knew you could “turn” gay by virtue of recruitment?

In 2017, a secret pride celebration was held nevertheless.

Rainbow Riots, a Swedish Ugandan LGBT group, performs during a Uganda Pride celebration on Aug. 20, 2017. The event was held in secret amid fears that police would have forced organizers to cancel it. (Photo courtesy of Petter Wallenberg)

MPs in Uganda are trying to get harsh anti-homosexuality legislation reintroduced, declaring that homosexuality is “un-African”.

August 6, 1675 – Russian Czar Alexis Banned Foreign Haircuts

Peter Alekseevich Romanov, more commonly known as “Peter the Great” was born in or near Moscow on Thursday May 30, 1672. While Peter is revered for opening up windows to the West, his father, Alexis, was not quite so open. According to Lindsey Hughes, the late Professor of Russian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London and author of Russia in the Age of Peter the Great (Yale University Press, 2000):

. . . foreigners were still in Russia on sufferance, tolerated as a necessary evil. The building of the new Foreign Quarter in 1652 was actually an attempt to concentrate foreigners and their churches in a restricted locality, away from the city centre, where they had lived previously.”

Alexis I of Russia, and father of Peter the Great

Furthermore:

Russians were still clearly differentiated from Western Europeans by their dress, although a number were tempted by Polish influence to don Western fashions in private.”

To keep distinctions clear, Tsar Alexis decreed on this day in history:

Courtiers are forbidden to adopt foreign, German, and other customs, to cut the hair on their heads and to wear robes, tunics and hats of foreign design, and they are to forbid their servants to do so.”

As Professor Hughes explains, the “courtiers” to whom this edict was directed formed the upper echelons of Russia’s service class. They were sometimes loosely referred to as “boyars” and were roughly the equivalent of the Western aristocracy. They enjoyed the “privilege” of attending and advising the tsar, who wanted to see no foreign influences in his midst.

Alexis had reason to worry about foreign influence. With the First Northern War (1654-60), Russia entered the wider sphere of international relations. Moreover, historically, Russia felt keenly the desire for unimpeded access to the Black Sea, which meant continuing interactions with the West by both diplomatic and military initiatives.

Peter the Great

When Peter first became Tsar, he did not have much interest in ruling, and the forces of conservatism and anti-foreign initiatives continued to prevail. As Hughes reports however:

. . . . Despite the Church’s dire warnings about the dangers of contamination by heretics, Peter himself was spending more and more time in the company of foreigners. . . . “

During 1697 and 1698 Peter travelled around Europe in disguise to learn about Europe firsthand. Fascinated with the foreign customs he encountered, he returned to Russia and implemented aspects of European culture into his own country.

Peter the Great biographer Robert K. Massie wrote that at a reception thrown in Peter’s honor following his return from Europe, “Peter suddenly produced a long, sharp barber’s razor and with his own hands began shaving off their beards. [They] “were forced, one by one, to submit until every boyar present was beardless and none could laugh and point a shocked finger at the others.” (p. 234)

Peter the great shaves a beard. Painting by Dimitry Belyukin, 1985

Massie continued: “The scene was remarkable: at a stroke the political, military and social leaders of Russia were bodily transformed.”

In addition, and further defying the early legacy of his father, he issued an edict in 1698 that decreed that all Russians except the clergy and the peasants must shave. (As more beardless foreign merchants and engineers came to Moscow in the mid-17th Century, Tsar Alexis relaxed his previous rule a bit, declaring that Russians could shave if they wished. Massie, p. 235) Eventually Peter also relented a bit, allowing those who wanted beards to keep them if they paid a tax, graduated by class. They were given a small medallion to wear around their necks that declared TAX PAID.

As for Peter, he continued to bring his razor with him to any ceremony, and as Massie recounts “those who arrived with beards departed without them.” (p. 235)

More westernizing changes followed, including a decision to follow the Julian calendar then in use in England. Unfortunately, England soon adopted the Gregorian calendar, but Russia refused to make a second change until 1918.

Nevertheless, as Mario Sosa, writing for St. Mary’s University, observed of Peter:

He played a crucial role in westernizing Russia by changing its economy, government, culture, and religious affairs . . . By doing all of this, Russia was able to expand and become one of the most powerful countries in the eastern hemisphere.”

July 22, 1939 – First African-American Woman Appointed to Judicial Office in the U.S.

Jane Bolin, born in Poughkeepsie, NY of a mixed-race couple on April 11, 1908, was the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School, the first to join the New York City Bar Association, and the first to join the New York City Law Department. She then became the first black woman to serve as a judge in the United States when she was sworn into the bench of the New York City Domestic Relations Court in 1939.

Bolin came from an activist family. As “The Root” recounts:

Activism ran in Bolin’s blood. . . . Her father, Gaius Charles Bolin Sr., the first black graduate of Williams College (1899) and the first black lawyer in Dutchess County, was elected president of the Dutchess County Bar Association in 1945. . . . After her mother died when Bolin was 8, her father raised her on a steady diet of civil rights and black community, and The Crisis was mandatory reading.”

Bolin was an outstanding student, graduating from high school at only 15 years of age. At age 16, Bolin wanted to enroll at Vassar, but black students were not accepted. She then went to Wellesley College in Massachusetts where she was one of only two black freshmen. She later reported being brutally ostracized and ridiculed by the student body despite her academic excellence; her years there “saddened and maddened” her. Still, she graduated with a BA in 1928 as one of the top students of her class and was officially recognized as a “Wellesley Scholar.”

©US Office of War Information, Jane Bolin (1942)

Nevertheless, a career adviser at Wellesley College tried to discourage her from applying to Yale Law School due to her race and gender. She ignored this advice, and was admitted to Yale Law School where she was the only black student, and one of only three women. She became the first black woman to receive a law degree from Yale in 1931 and passed the New York state bar examination in 1932.

Bolin practiced law in a variety of capacities before running, unsuccessfully, for the New York State Assembly as a Republican candidate in 1936. Despite the loss, securing the Republican candidacy boosted her reputation in New York politics.

On July 22, 1939, Mayor of New York City Fiorello La Guardia appointed 31-year-old Bolin as a judge of the Domestic Relations Court. For the next twenty years, she was the only black female judge in the country. She remained a judge of the court, renamed the Family Court in 1962, for 40 years, with her appointment being renewed three times, until she was required to retire at the age of 70.

Although Family Court was not especially high up in the judicial hierarchy, Bolin still tried to make a difference:

During her four decades on the bench, she consistently chipped away at the institutional racism that plagued New York City. . . . With persistence, Bolin succeeded in having religion and race removed as factors in court assignments. Ultimately, she had similar success in desegregating the city’s child-placement services that were dependent on public funds, although that fight would transpire over two of her terms, beginning in 1942 and ending in 1955.”

Throughout her life (she died in 2007 at the age of 98) Bolin was an activist for children’s rights and education. She was a legal advisor to the National Council of Negro Women and served on the boards of the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Child Welfare League. She received honorary degrees from Tuskeegee Institute, Williams College, Hampton University, Western College for Women and Morgan State University.